Our school is participating in the MS Read-A-Thon for the next month. Generally, I don't push participation in our fundraisers at this point because the boys are young and we're bombarded with fundraiser after fundraiser while we're struggling to keep our heads above water ourselves. We contribute to many causes through our church and other organizations, so I don't tend to push the school-based ones. However, I will encourage the boys to participate in this one for two reasons: a.) Multiple Sclerosis touches me personally and b.) the boys love reading!
About twelve years ago, I was sitting at work and my eye seemed a bit blurry so I rubbed it and kept working. Over the next hour, it kept getting worse and worse and I was frustrated with myself because I thought I smeared my contact more and more each time I rubbed my eye. I even went out at my lunch break to buy some contact lens cleaner to deal with it properly, but it didn't help. Within an hour after trying to clean my lens, I was starting to get quite concerned. My eye was no longer blurred, but I had lost sight in the bottom half of my eye. I called the eye doctor immediately, left work, and by the time I got to the doctor's office, the vision in my right eye was completely gone. The doctor examined me, asked a ton of questions, and scheduled me for an immediate MRI. I really had no idea what was going on at that time, but in between the my visit with the optometrist and my MRI, I spoke with my brother-in-law, Joe, who very calmly asked, "Did he say anything about MS?"
Whoa!!!! MS?! As in Multiple Sclerosis?! Uh, no! That was not mentioned ... until the MRI results came back. I was told that I had Optic Neuritis - inflammation on the optic nerve. It was NOT MS, but this is one of the early signs of MS. I was put on prednisone and was monitored closely for any other MS related symptoms, but while living in Phoenix, was never officially diagnosed.
Fast forward a few years to the year I married Fred and moved to Canada. That first summer that I was here, the blindness returned, but this time in my other eye! I started a whole new battery of tests with my optometrist here: eye exams, in depth questions, field of vision screenings, MRIs, blood tests, nerve tests, appointments with neurologist, opto-neurologists, etc, etc. For the past eleven years here in Canada I have had appointment after appointment trying to pinpoint exactly what is going on with my body. I've had vision issues, physical instability, vertigo, numbness and pain in my hands and feet, tingling in my face and scalp, confused thoughts and slow speech. I sometimes can't tell where my feet are while I'm moving and I have fallen down stairs (breaking my tailbone once!), tripped while walking many times, struggle with depth perception, etc. When I am over-heated, over-tired or over-stressed, my vision starts to fade and my body coordination starts to slip. I was out for a power walk once and while I was still far from home, I lost control of my leg to a point. I got scared because it felt like my brain wasn't telling my leg what to do and I had to literally push my leg forward with my hand so that I could keep walking home!
It can be quite scary at times (like when holding a baby and panicking at the top of the stairs because you don't know if you can make it down in one piece or not), but God has been faithful even in this trial! I have NOT been diagnosed with MS. The specialists don't want to label me because the symptoms are not severe, nor do they seem to be progressing rapidly, so they want to spare me the complications of having an official diagnosis. I do appreciate this because there really is nothing that can be done at this point. It is just something that I have learned to live with and have to make lifestyle adjustments to manage day to day activities. The symptoms come and go and have never been so debilitating that everything grinds to a halt. They're just annoyances at this point. For me, life goes on, but say MS, and my ears are perked up!
As for the boys, Stephen especially is really into this Read-A-Thon. The students were given a pledge sheet that has an hourglass picture on it with 20 minute increments that can be colored in as they read. K-3 students who read at least 400 minutes get to have their name put in a draw for a year's subscription to Chirp magazine. Stephen LOVES Chirp, so he is determined to hit that 400 minutes! He has until April 21 to do this, but it's only day 2.5 and he's already up to 160 minutes! He has been setting the timer for 20 minutes and then dives on the couch with his book! The timer goes off, he colors in his next space, resets the timer and gets lost in his book again. This morning he told me that he's disappointed that he reads so much in that 20 minutes because his book gets finished too fast.
Well, there you go. This is why I'm happy to support this year's MS Read-A-Thon at school. The money that is raised not only goes to the MS Society, but some will go to our school AND the bonus of my kids reading is all worth it. Happy Reading, Brigadoon students!